John Hammond Rumors
Officially, Becky Bonner is the Magic’s director of player development and quality control—tasked with everything from player appearances and facilities upgrades to scouting and player evaluation. Unofficially, she’s training to become a general manager—perhaps the first female GM in league history. On this night, Bonner is shepherding Magic players through Walmart. Tomorrow, she’ll be filing reports on a batch of draft prospects, then watching the Magic-Clippers game from the executive suite, alongside Magic president Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond. In the weeks and months ahead, she’ll be in the Magic’s war room, offering input on free-agent targets or potential deals in advance of the Feb. 8 trade deadline. She will be the lone female voice in that room—and one of the few in the NBA, period. “I just think she’s got unlimited potential,” says Weltman, who recruited Bonner from the league office in June, with the promise of full involvement in basketball operations and the belief she could one day run a team of her own. “It will evolve the way it evolves,” he says.
Another big reason the Magic can be optimistic about turning the corner is the evolution of fourth-year forward Aaron Gordon, who is averaging career highs in points (17.5) and rebounds (8.1). “I think what he’s done is he’s finding a rhythm to his game, a pace to his game,” new Magic GM John Hammond said. “I think he’s just scratching the surface, too. Joe Dumars always used to say this: ‘Every offseason you should come back with one little part of your game better. Whatever it is. Just one thing.'”
The improvement comes as Gordon is poised to become a restricted free agent this summer, but Hammond sounds convinced that both Gordon and the Magic will be able to come to terms on a long-term contract keeping him in Orlando. “You look at a guy like that and say, ‘He’s one of those guys as you move forward with, that you got to have,'” Hammond said. “And we feel that way.”
Since the purchase, Edens has served as the team’s governor — and therefore the official final word on all major decisions — but Lasry will take over the role in 2019. That dynamic has proved problematic, particularly after Hammond left the organization for Orlando this summer. At any random moment over the 40 months he worked for the current regime, Hammond was twisting, either on the verge of losing his job or having his contract extended. From the outset, ownership was conflicted about him. It admired Hammond’s affable manner and keen eye that plucked one overachieving pick after another in the draft. Yet as a basketball lifer who majored in scouting, Hammond didn’t project the image of the new-economy GM, “the guy who works 18 hours a day, speaks the hedge fund language and will cut your nuts off,” in the language of one league exec. Eventually, the latter condition outweighed the former in the eyes of ownership.
Look for Hammond to shuffle the deck now that he’s the new Magic GM. NBA officials said Hammond has been working the phones, trying to move point guard Elfrid Payton and veteran centers Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo. If Hammond is successful in moving Payton, it will likely impact the Magic’s draft plans. The consensus among NBA officials is the Magic will draft Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac with the sixth overall selection. However, if Payton is moved, the Magic may change plans at select North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith.
Orlando owns the sixth, 25th, 33rd and 35th picks in the draft and it is hopeful that it will emerge with one, if not multiple, difference-making pieces. It’s the Magic’s first draft with Weltman and Hammond calling the shots and they feel the franchise is in a good spot despite the time crunch they have been faced with of late. “In a typical year, all we’d do right now is listen, talk to teams, figure out what’s out there and discuss what our options are,’’ said Weltman, who was hired on May 22 and officially brought Hammond on board a day later. “By this time, in a typical year, everything (in the evaluation process) would be behind us, but since it’s a new group, we’re still watching video and comparing notes on players and putting in extra work. … We’ve been in the office late every night.